Some of the happiest periods of my life took place during college and grad school. I lived with a group of eight guys, and they were the greatest friends one could ask for.
We had fun moments of eating junk food and playing hours of Mario Kart and Risk.
We had physical moments of showing affection.
We had the intimate moments of sharing a cigar or a beer with our deepest thoughts.
We had the deep theological and spiritual conversations.
We lived in the mundane together.
Sleeping was not lonely as I often fell asleep in my bed after talking to my friend who fell asleep in the bunk above me.
Those are precious memories to me.
An unfortunate side-effect: I never wanted this way of living to end. This desire does not seem like a bad one, but it worked its way into a major emotional dependency on my friends. This emotional dependency reared its ugly head when my friends began to date.
These women were taking away my friends!
As their dating relationships grew more serious, I felt myself going down on their list of priorities. Some of those friends got married. And our friendships effectively ended.
I felt the strain, and I felt my life approaching a life of loneliness. I was selfish. I should have been happy for my friends finding wives, having kids, and raising families.
I’ve always had these same desires, so I shouldn’t have been upset at my friends for pursuing them, too.
One year, my emotional dependency was especially destructive. I was living with three of my friends; all of them were dating. I struggled with depression and anxiety, and thanks to my emotional dependency, I sucked the life from my friends. I added so much stress to their already stressful lives.
My greatest fear of losing my friends was happening, and the more I tried to keep my friends, the more I was losing them.
One night, because of my destructive behaviors, they held an intervention of sorts for me, addressing how difficult I was to live with. But this only made everything worse.
My friends and I now commonly label this year as the year from hell.
When that school year ended, I left my friends. I felt like it was the right thing to do, I felt like I was destroying their lives, and I had to leave. I fled to Wisconsin for a few months and Brazil for a couple months more.
This escape gave me time to think.
I realized how selfish I had been for being upset that my friends did not center their lives around me. I’d created a false dichotomy in my mind: that my friends had to choose either friendship or marriage, and by choosing marriage they were ending friendship.
While my experiences did support that view since two of my closest friends had married and ended our friendship, I grew convinced that it did not have to be that way with everyone.
One day, I called up my roommates and apologized to them, and they apologized to me as well.
We began the process of reconciliation.
We confessed how much we’d missed one another. It was hard being so far away. They did the greatest act of reconciliation, asking me to move in with them again. With great trepidation, I took them up on their offer.
I told myself that this next year I would support their relationships with their girlfriends and stop being upset at them for pursuing this route in life. That was a tough decision, because I kept saying I would only prepare them for the time when they would leave me.
Ironically enough, when these guys did get married, our friendship did not end. When I released my grasp on their lives, our friendship prospered. Their wives supported their friendships with me. I think they realized their husbands needed this friendship.
And I realized their wives brought out the best in my friends. I consider their marriages the best thing to happen in their lives — and my life.
Every time I make the trip to visit them now, their wives encourage us to get together. They do not get in the way.
One friend has a routine of buying a pizza, a six-pack of fine craft beer, and a pack of organic cigarettes as we talk late into the night. My other friend will go on long walks with me, usually to a body of water as we reflect.
It took a while, but my life transitioned from the view of hating marriage because it destroyed my friendships to the view that marriages can create better friendships. I do admit that I miss living with these guys at times, being in their presence all the time.
But it does make these moments of entering into their presence more special.
Have you hated marriage because it took away your friends? Have you experienced the destructive side of emotional dependency with friends who date or marry? How can you support your OSA friends who are pursuing dating or marriage?